How To View The World’s Biggest Museum Collections Even As COVID-19 Brings The Art World To A Halt

How To View The World’s Biggest Museum Collections Even As COVID-19 Brings The Art World To A Halt

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” _ Pablo Picasso

Nearly every major art institution has temporarily shuttered its doors as the world obsessively wrings and washes its hands amid surging consternation over the spread of COVID-19. It’s especially distressing for those of us who find solace gazing at a masterpiece. 

As more employers force self quarantine and schools shut down, you can work fine art into your day by exploring myriad world-class online collections. 

The Louvre in Paris, the world’s most visited museum with 9.6 million guests last year, announced a week ago it was closing “until further notice,” after the French government banned all gatherings of more than 100 people to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

You don’t have to buy advance tickets, wait in line, and strain your neck to peek past the hordes to get up close and personal with “the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world.” (John Lichfield, The Moving of the Mona Lisa

Escape your home office and take a virtual tour of Leonardo da Vinci’s archetypal Italian Renaissance masterpiece. Your track pad leads you across the oil on poplar panel, examining every nuance created with sfumato, a painting technique used “to tone down” or “to evaporate like smoke” through shading which produces soft, imperceptible transitions between colors.

From Egyptian Antiquities from the Pharaonic period, to Delacroix’s Apollo Slaying the Serpent Python in the Galerie d’Apollon, you can tour the Louvre’s exhibition rooms and galleries.

The Galerie d’Apollon, which houses some of the Louvre’s most precious historical collections, reopened in January boasting new display cases for the French Crown Jewels. Assembled by François I in 1532, the legendary collection was passed down from monarch to monarch, until 1887, when the French State sold nearly every precious piece. The Louvre has reunited all 23 pieces shown in three cases grouped by period: pre Revolution, including the Regent and Sancy diamonds, embellishing the crown from the coronation of King Louis XV in 1722; the First Empire, the Bourbon Restoration, and the July Monarchy; and the Second Empire, including remaining jewelry treasures owned by Empress Eugénie.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the largest art museum in the United States and the third most visited art museum in the world, welcoming more than seven million people last year, announced yesterday that it will temporarily close all three locations: The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters, to support New York City’s effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. 

“While we don’t have any confirmed cases connected to the museum, we believe that we must do all that we can to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our community, which at this time calls for us to minimize gatherings while maintaining the cleanest environment possible,” said Daniel H. Weiss, president and CEO of The Met. “We look forward to soon announcing when we’ll be able to welcome our staff and visitors back to the Museum.”

From Gerhard Richter: Painting After All, which opened at The Met Breuer on March 4 and will be on view through July 5, to the March 2 re-opening of The Met’s British Galleries, one of the highlights of the Museum’s 150th anniversary, you can view all exhibitions from your desk or sofa. 

The Met examines six decades of Richter’s prolific and trailblazing career, featuring more than 100 works including his preferred medium of painting, as well as photography, digital reproduction, and sculpture. Major loans include the series Cage (2006) and Birkenau (2014), along with the recent work House of Cards (2020), all on public display in the United States for the first time.

The revamped British Galleries at The Met Fifth Avenue span 11,000 square feet celebrating decorative arts, design, and sculpture created between 1500 and 1900. Nearly 700 works of art, including many new acquisitions, especially objects from the 19th century selected to augment the redesigned space, transport viewers from the Middle Ages to the Tudor Renaissance.

The State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, the second-largest art museum in the world, remains open for now, despite the city’s moratorium on events with more than 1,000 people.

The global art world may be on hold, with cancellations or postponements of major events including Basel Hong Kong, Baselworld, and the early closing of TEFAF Maastricht. But you can privately tour most museum and gallery art collections online.  

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